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MRA sues NBC over fines on radio, TV stations

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Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Ibadan, Oyo State, challenging the powers of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to impose fines on broadcasting stations since it is not a judicial body.

Essentially, the organisation is asking the court to declare that the fine of N3 million each imposed by the NBC on three television stations on October 23 is unlawful and, therefore, null and void.

According to MRA Communications Officer, Idowu Adewale, the suit filed on behalf of the organization by an Ibadan-based lawyer, Mr. Boluwatife Sanya, is asking the court to set aside the fines imposed by the NBC on ARISE Television, Channels Television and the Africa Independent Television (AIT) over their coverage of the #EndSARS protests and issue a perpetual injunction restraining the commission from imposing sanctions or fines or other unlawful or unconstitutional restrictions on television and radio stations in the country.

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The suit, brought under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009; Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as preserved by the Ratification and Enforcement Act (Cap A9), Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, is founded in part on MRA’s contention that the imposition of the fines contravenes provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code relating to sanctions and fines as well as the doctrine of fair hearing as provided for in the constitution.

MRA is seeking, among others, the following reliefs:
• a declaration that the NBC’s arbitrary act of sanctioning and imposing fines of N3 million each on ARISE TV, Channels TV, and AIT purportedly in line with Sections 5.6.3 and 5.6.9 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code creates a chilling or stifling effect on freedom of expression and is likely to interfere with the right of MRA’s members to freedom of expression, particularly their right to receive ideas and information without interference as guaranteed by section 39 of the constitution and Article 9 of the African Charter; and

• a declaration that the NBC, not being a judicial body, lacks the power to impose fines on any broadcaster, including fines imposed on the three stations, and that the imposition of such fines is null and void.

No date has been fixed for the hearing.

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